The Howard Government and Political Management: The Challenge of Policy Activism

Jenny Stewart, Maria Maley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Although the distinctive values promulgated by successive Howard governments have been extensively analysed, less attention has been paid to the manner of their incorporation into policy. This article maps the ways in which policy processes were managed to achieve values-change in the Howard decade (1996–2006), focusing on the policy subsystem at the apex of government. Three case studies are investigated in detail: the development of welfare to work policies; strategies to combat illicit drugs; and industrial relations legislation. We show how Prime Minister Howard's leadership was built around a highly personalised system of political control, based on the seizing of opportunities as they arose; the engineering of policy networks; and the alignment of key resources such as the Cabinet Office; the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and senior bureaucratic leadership with the Prime Minister's policy priorities. We show that this system made possible very rapid policy development, but was also associated with deficits in policy-related research and with a degree of implementation risk whereby minimal consultation had occurred. Some comparisons are drawn with governments of the Hawke–Keating period, which were more technocratic in approach
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-293
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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